Partner Profile: University of Alberta

Posted:December 11, 2013

University of Alberta Context

The University of Alberta is a research and teaching intensive university, with approximately 40,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students enrolled. The university aims to be “one of the world’s great universities for the public good,” with community involvement written into its mission and vision. In its Dare to Deliver Academic Plan (2011-2015), the University of Alberta outlines its commitment to working toward greater community and civic engagement. The university’s Comprehensive Institutional Plan (2013) highlights the ways in which the University of Alberta fosters partnerships with other institutions and organizations both academic and community-based. Knowledge mobilization is also written into this comprehensive plan, as the university moves toward addressing the needs of learners and the community through the development of innovative programming oriented toward engagement. Among units within the university dedicated to fostering community-engagement the Faculty of Extension  has been particularly involved in the development and support of community-engagement initiatives since 1912. Since 2009 Extension has developed a  number of research and training programs to support an overall goal of “engaging communities near and far.” This commitment to community-university partnership is also written into the Faculty’s Academic Plan (2009-14), which identifies engagement scholarship as its intellectual domain.

Challenges and Opportunities 

Like many universities in Canada, the University of Alberta has faced some challenges in working toward a culture that supports reward and development for community-engaged scholarship, including:

  • The large size of the University and number of programs and units within the university with diverse goals and orientations
  • Fiscal restraint, leading to increased need to demonstrate outcomes of programs and departments within the university, as outlined in the Comprehensive University Plan (2013)

Nonetheless, the University of Alberta, and several units within the university in particular, have oriented or re-oriented toward engagement. The Faculty of Extension offers a Citation (non-credit program) in Community-Engagement Studies, as well as a Graduate Credit Certificate in Community-Based Research and Evaluation. A graduate degree, Master of Arts in Community Engagement, is currently in the Ministry approval process. Housed within the Faculty of Extension, Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth and Families (CUP) uses a community-based research and evaluation approach to co-creating and sharing knowledge between academic and community partners. Also associated with the Faculty of Extension, the City-Region Studies Centre (CRSC) employs community-engagement to address issues of city-region concern. The Centre for Public Engagement (CPI), established in 2009, also works to institutionalize and recognize the value of community-engagement. The Community Health Research Network works with a community-based research orientation toward enhancing the health of communities, with a focus on marginalized groups. The Faculty of Arts engages with community primarily in the form of Community Service Learning (CSL), offering a number of CSL-oriented courses, as well as a Certificate in Community Engagement and Service-Learning.

Focus on Reward and Development

Since the inception of the CES Partnership, the University of Alberta has continued to work to support CES. Key activities and achievements have included:

  • Offering the CBRE Workshop Series, (2007) in different formats, to diverse participants, providing opportunities to learn about and employ key concepts and strategies in community-based research.  Participants who complete the 6-part series may count advanced credit with the Citation in Community Engagement
  • Establishing the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute (WCHRI) Science Shop program, which provides funded training opportunities to students at the University of Alberta during the summer who engage in relevant community-engaged projects
  • Building the Centre for Public Involvement (CPI) (2009), to enhance public participation in decision-making processes (in partnership with the City of Edmonton)
  • Collaborating with researchers from academy, community, industry, government and civil society, and training students (both graduate and undergraduate) in participatory research (through the CPI)
  • Preparing a list of e-resources around such topics as public involvement, the challenges of public involvement, and evaluation, among others, which demonstrate the commitment on the part of the CPI and the University of Alberta to collaborate for change that would bring public involvement more deeply into the institution
  • Hosting the 15th annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium conference [link to ], Oct 5-9, 2014, the first time it is being held outside of the United States.

For more information about efforts towards rewarding community-engaged scholarship and related initiatives at the University of Alberta, please contact Katy Campbell, Dean, Faculty of Extension, at [email protected]

The challenge of tenure and promotion procedures should not be permitted to unduly limit the growth of the movement for community-university engagement in Canada. A dialogue for action on this issue should be launched and sustained until this obstacle is permanently removed.*